Updated: Oct 16, 2021
Today, April 22, is Earth Day, the most widely observed secular holiday celebrated internationally. Starting as 20 million Americans calling for higher protections for our world in 1970, Earth Day has evolved into an annual worldwide event. Its objective is to take action and “Restore Our Earth.”
“We must Restore Our Earth not just because we care about the natural world, but because we live on it. Every one of us needs a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health & survival, and happiness. A healthy planet is not an option — it is a necessity,” Earthday.org explains.
In a year where climate change has portrayed its devastating effects through destructive wildfires, a ferocious hurricane season, and massive climate-related migration, Earth Day’s focus is more crucial than ever. It stresses the need for comprehensive climate action by the government.
President Biden’s administration recognizes the severe threat that climate change poses to society. Biden stresses that drastic action must be taken immediately to limit the effects of climate change before they become irreversible. Thus, he is introducing the Clean Energy Revolution.
The Clean Energy Revolution, or Green New Deal, is a bill that sets up a solid foundation to combat climate change through “[achieving] a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050.” Initially introduced by House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Green New Deal focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also addressing economic inequality and racial justice.
The plan primarily aims to establish resiliency against climate change-related disasters, restore infrastructure to reduce its climate impacts, ensure 100% of the power demand stems from clean energy, and ensure affordable access to electricity for all.
However, the plan does more than ensure clean energy: it also encourages family farmers to remove pollution and harmful emissions, provides funding for communities whose health or economic stability was affected by climate change, and guarantees jobs created by the Green New Deal with “family-[sustainable]” wages.
The Green New Deal takes significant steps in addressing climate change, but it faces opposition in Congress because of the costs and the seemingly radical nature of the plan.
In addition to his support of the Green New Deal, on March 31, Biden laid out the American Jobs Plan, a specific plan for combating climate change. Allocating over two trillion dollars, the plan seeks to rebuild thousands of miles of roads and economically important bridges, ensure clean drinking water and sustainable housing, and invest in further climate research.
In his speech, Biden explained that his plan would support the middle class “regardless [of background, color, or religion].” He calls it “the greatest jobs investment since World War II.”
Biden’s plan is all-encompassing, covering issues like clean water, affordable access to housing and internet, and investments in clean buildings and infrastructures.
Biden also introduced the transportation aspect of the plan, where roads and bridges will be rebuilt with new transit lines. These improvements will reduce commute times, pollution, and congestion. The president’s plan also includes a proposed investment for $174 billion in electric cars and clean vehicle resources, produced and sold through the United States.
Cars are responsible for one-fifth of the carbon emissions in the U.S., so lower commute times and congestion and other forms of transportation like trains will reduce the harmful emissions.
The American Jobs Plan and the Green New Deal are promising proposals that, if implemented, will be a great start to taking action against climate change.
But is this enough?
A new model has projected the Earth’s temperature until 2100, and scientists say that Earth will “cross the threshold for dangerous warming (+1.5 C) between 2027 and 2042.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, CO2 levels reached another record-breaking high in 2020. CO2 emissions trap heat leading to global warming, increased wildfires, smog, and air pollution. The Pliocene Era was the last time CO2 emissions were this high; “global temperatures were 2-4C warmer, and sea levels were 10-25 meters (33-82 feet) higher than they are now.”
Climate change is a global issue, so it is easy to feel like there is nothing you can do to help. But in reality, any little action that lowers your carbon footprint is worthwhile.
There are numerous local, national, and international organizations that bring people together to combat climate change. One youth-started climate organization is the Sunrise Movement, where teen climate activist, Caroline Cadwell, is an active member. I asked her what she would say to someone who thought that they, as one person, would not make an impact to stop climate change. Cadwell said the following: “We all make change collectively. Anything that even one person has to offer contributes to our success…one step at a time is how we get this work done.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council says the number one action you can take to curb climate change is speaking out. This can include calling elected officials, posting on social media about the dangers of climate change, speaking to relatives and friends about what they can do to help, and getting involved with climate organizations in the community.
The sea is rising, the global temperature is at an all-time high, and our climate is in danger. This Earth Day, we urge you to recognize the precipice we stand on and work together to build a greener world.
Through Teen Lenses: Why is climate change an important issue to you?
“Climate change affects everyone, especially in Kentucky. In eastern Kentucky, we see the effects of the coal industry. It’s causing acid rain, increased natural disasters, it impacts people’s health, among many other things. For me, stopping climate change is important because not only does it allow for a thriving planet, but plans to stop it will completely transform our society and economy. The industries causing climate change are hurting people. People are having to pick between their health or supporting their families. So ultimately, I’m passionate about it because we have to be for the well-being of everyone around and our future. Climate justice means far more than just stopping climate change. it means affordable healthcare, housing, more just and equitable society, etc.” Caroline Cadwell, 16, Lafayette High School, Lexington, Kentucky
“Climate change is important to me because the world we live in is dying. If we don’t help fix it, there won’t be a world to live in. I fight against climate change so that my generation and the generations after me don’t have to worry about whether or not there will be a future.” Corin Dicks, 15, Lexington, Kentucky, Home Schooled.
“It’s important to me for two reasons. For one, I’d like to grow up and experience my whole life before the earth explodes, and two, it’s a problem that is fixable if our globe can actually commit to more sustainable action. So being able to fight this climate crisis effectively would mean much stronger global diplomacy and unity.” Taylor Galavotti, 17, Henry Clay High School, Lexington, Kentucky
“Climate change is an important issue to me because of how much it affects humans. We can look at the recent disasters that happened because of climate change: eastern Kentucky with the flooding and the storms that caused the massive power outage in Texas. Both of these happened in the past few months and caused people to lose their houses, belongings, and even some of their lives. I have family on the western coast, specifically California and Oregon, whom I feared for when the terrible wildfires began to burn last summer. Some people think people fighting for the climate want less endangered animals to become extinct or for more trees to be planted. Although those are valid reasons, I care about climate change for a much bigger reason – the people. Climate change affects EVERYONE either directly or indirectly, and until our politicians implement the drastic legislation needed to combat this (the green new deal), our futures are ruined. We need big action now.” Vivienne Lucier, 15, Henry Clay High School, Lexington, Kentucky